What Did Pope Francis Say About Civil Unions?
“Francesco,” a newly released documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis, has made global headlines, because the film contains a scene in which Pope Francis calls for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples. Some activists and media reports have suggested that Pope Francis has changed Catholic teaching by his remarks. Among many Catholics, the pope’s comments have raised questions about what the pope really said, what it means, and what the Church teaches about civil unions and marriage. CNA looks at those questions.
What did Pope Francis say about civil unions?
During a segment of “Francesco” which discussed Pope Francis’ pastoral care of Catholics who identify as LGBT, the pope made two distinct comments.
He said first that: “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”
While the pope did not elaborate on the meaning of those remarks in the video, Pope Francis has spoken before to encourage parents and relatives not to ostracize or shun children who have identified as LGBT. This seems to be the sense in which the pope spoke about the right of people to be a part of the family.
Some have suggested that when Pope Francis spoke about a “right to a family,” the pope was offering a kind of tacit endorsement of adoption by same-sex couples. But the pope has previously spoken against such adoptions, saying that through them children are “deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God,” and saying that “every person needs a male father and a female mother that can help them shape their identity.”
On civil unions, the pope said that: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”
“I stood up for that,” Pope Francis added, apparently in reference to his proposal to brother bishops, during a 2010 debate in Argentina over gay marriage, that accepting civil unions might be a way to prevent the passage of same-sex marriage laws in the country.
What did Pope Francis say about gay marriage?
Nothing. The topic of gay marriage was not discussed in the documentary. In his ministry, Pope Francis has frequently affirmed the doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church that marriage is a lifelong partnership between one man and one woman.
While Pope Francis has frequently encouraged a welcoming disposition to Catholics who identify as LGBT, the pope has also said that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” and said that “the family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage,” and that efforts to redefine marriage “threaten to disfigure God's plan for creation."
Some people have said what the pope taught is heresy. Is that true?
No. The pope’s remarks did not deny or call into question any doctrinal truth that Catholics must hold or believe. In fact, the pope has frequently affirmed the Church’s doctrinal teaching regarding marriage.
The pope’s apparent call for civil union legislation, which seems to be different from the position expressed by the C [ongregation for the] D[octrine] of the F[aith] in 2003, has been taken to represent a departure from a long-standing moral judgment that Church leaders have taught supports and upholds the truth. The CDF document said that civil union laws give tacit consent to homosexual behavior; while the pope expressed support for civil unions, he has also spoken in his pontificate about the immorality of homosexual acts.
It is also important to note that a documentary interview is not a forum for official papal teaching. The pope’s remarks were not presented in their fullness, and no transcript has been presented, so unless the Vatican offers additional clarity, they need to be taken in light of the limited information available about them.
What does the Church teach about homosexuality?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that those who identify as LGBT “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
The Catechism elaborates that homosexual inclinations are “objectively disordered,” homosexual acts are “contrary to the natural law,” and those who identify as lesbian and gay, like all people, are called to the virtue of chastity.
Courage International is a Roman Catholic apostolate for men and women who experience same sex attractions and those who love them. They are inspired by the gospel call to holiness. Through the apostolate men and women who experience same sex attraction receive pastoral support in the form of spiritual guidance, community prayer support, and fellowship. There is a weekly support group for men and women.
EnCourage members are parents, spouses, siblings, and friends of people who identify as same sex attracted. There is a monthly support group for members to understand the experiences of their loved ones and to respond to them with compassion. They know that they can express love for someone even if they can’t support all of their choices or actions.
Father Aaron Nord is the local chaplain for the Courage groups and the contact for the EnCourage group. His contacts are firstname.lastname@example.org, 314.792.7404. (Please allow 24-48 hours for a return call.) The Courage website is couragerc.org for additional resources and programs.
From Catholic News Agency (catholicnewsagency.com)